HIV Vaccine Studies: More Information

What is HIV?
HIV is the virus that is known to cause AIDS. Viruses are the smallest living things on earth, and can be seen only with specialized microscopes called electron microscopes. All viruses are made of nucleic acid (RNA or DNA) and protein, and some like HIV also have a lipid (fat) coating. HIV is an enveloped (lipid-coated) virus in the Retrovirus family. Retroviruses contain RNA that represents the genetic information of the virus, a surrounding protective coat called Gag protein, and protein spikes that project from the viral particle called envelope glycoproteins. Gp120 and gp41 are the names for the HIV envelope glycoproteins. Most HIV vaccines are designed to generate immune responses to either the core (Gag) proteins or the envelope glycoproteins (gp120) or to both.

What is a Vaccine?
A vaccine is a compound that is designed to create an immune response that will protect people from diseases. They show your immune system what a virus looks like so your immune system can learn how to fight it off. Then, when you come in contact with that virus, your immune system can fight off the virus before you get sick. Many vaccines, such as the common tetanus shot, are made from purified proteins. Others are more complex, and include multiple proteins in a single vaccine. Some modern vaccines are called live vector vaccines because they are made from a virus or bacteria that has been altered to produce a desired protein. Live vectors (such as adenovirus or poxvirus vectors) can enter a cell such as a human muscle cell and make protein, but are unable themselves to reproduce or spread to other cells.

What is in an HIV Vaccine?
There is no HIV Vaccine that is available. However, there are many new vaccine trials going on around the world to try to find an effective vaccine. No HIV vaccines can give you HIV infection. The HIV vaccines currently being tested include protein vaccines (such as gp120 and other envelope glycoprotein preparations), DNA vaccines, and live vector-based vaccines. Adenovirus and modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) are examples of live vector-based vaccines undergoing evaluation as HIV vaccines in humans. Peptide vaccines are similar to protein vaccines, and represent very small pieces of proteins that have been strung together to generate immune responses.

Can I get infected with HIV/AIDS from the vaccine?
No. None of the vaccines contain any of the actual virus (alive or dead). Therefore people cannot become infected with HIV from the vaccines.

Who is eligible to be in a vaccine study?
Volunteers in the studies are healthy, uninfected men and women between 18 and 50 years of age from all racial and ethnic groups.

Will I be able to get my questions answered before starting a study?
Yes. Before anyone can participate in a study it will be completely explained during an education session. Our staff will explain the specific details of the trial and go over the consent form. There is no further obligation to participate after the education session. If you are interested in setting up an education session, please contact us at (615) 322-4673.

Do I get any money for participating in a study?
Yes, we compensate study volunteers.

What if I change my mind once I have started a study?
A volunteer may withdraw from a study at any time, for any reason.

What happens once I learn about the study and want to participate in it?
After an education session, volunteers go through a pre-screening process to see if they meet the health criteria for participation. The pre-screening process usually includes a physical exam, blood tests and urinalysis. If all of the screening results come back within normal limits then you can start the trial with the first vaccination visit.

How can I get more information?
Please contact us at (615) 322-4673. For general information about HIV and vaccine research, visit the websites listed below.

HIV Vaccine Resources